King’s Keep was written on the 48k Spectrum by Ian Wright, who had previously worked on Kai Temple for Firebird. This time round, Ian took on both coding and graphical duties.
Ian’s inspiration for the game was a graphic adventure budget game called Spellbound, released by Mastertronic and coded by David Jones. Ian’s previous game had been fairly monochromatic in comparison, and he wanted to write as colourful a game as the Spectrum’s hardware limitations would allow, with 8 directional scrolling rather than using the more traditional (and technically easier) flip screen approach.
Ian decided to translate the sprites into 8×8 blocks to make scrolling the screen work better. It might have been a low-tech solution, but it was simple and effective, and so freed Ian to concentrate on the game design and not worry about any technical impositions.
Ian soon realised that to design the layout of the castle, he would have to write his own editor tool for building the castle and its contents block-by-block. Having done this, he then wrote the scrolling routines that would be applied to the castle data.
Ian also wrote some clever gravity and collision detection code which allowed the player (if they so wished) to gather every item in the game and place them in a big pile in any room and still be able to collect individual objects from the pile.
Finally, a menu windows system was written from scratch, along with a time sliced ‘teleprinter’ which displayed all of the messages from the game.
King’s Keep was technically better and visually more appealing than Kai Temple, plus it had a more involved and challenging game design, and yet it sold fewer copies.
In hindsight, Ian believed that martial arts games were more in vogue at the time, and that the artwork for Kai Temple was more exciting. Sometimes the public do judge a book by its cover after all!